Sabeel's Call for Morally Responsible Investment
A Nonviolent Response to the Occupation
The movement towards a resolution of the Israel-Palestine conflict through nonviolent means is now accelerating. There is a window of opportunity to reach a just settlement. In spite of past setbacks and much skepticism, many people on both sides of the conflict cling to the hope for peace. As people of faith, the God we believe in is the God of hope and peace. We must not give in to despair.
Regardless of whether this new opportunity bears fruit in the political arena, we believe that serious ethical and moral issues pertaining to the occupation still need to be addressed by people of faith. Hence the challenge is for churches to consider seriously the issue of morally responsible investment.
The State of Israel was
established in 1948 on 78% of historic
For many years the
Palestinians rejected the establishment of the state of
Similarly, in 2002 the Beirut Arab League Summit
officially extended full recognition to
We believe that peace is not only possible but
within reach. The peace we are talking about guarantees the security and
territorial integrity of the state of
Moral Reasons for Responsible Investment
Sabeel is a Christian organization. As such, it emphasizes the importance of faithfulness to God – the God of love, justice, mercy, and peace. All people are created in God’s image and are loved equally and unconditionally. We also believe that the creator God has sanctified humanity through the Incarnation of Jesus Christ. The dignity of every human being is precious in the eyes of God.
Furthermore, God in Christ has given us life. “…in him was life, and the life was the light of all people” (John 1:4). God’s will for all people is, therefore, to have life and to have it “more abundantly.” Jesus said, “I have come in order that you might have life – life in all its fullness” (John ). For people to enjoy life in its fullness, they must live in peace and justice, in dignity and harmony with each other. Their God-given human worth must be respected. We must do everything we can to remove any obstacles that prevent human beings from achieving life in its fullness. God must be sovereign over all aspects of our lives including our politics, work, and investments.
From this faith perspective, we call attention to the ethical and moral imperatives that must guard and guide all people and institutions including governments. As people of faith we see them expressed in biblical injunctions such as “Love your neighbor as yourself ” (Mark ) and “In everything do to others as you would have them do to you”(Matthew ). We also believe that the best embodiments of such principles as they apply in the international arena are enshrined in the Universal Declaration of Human Rights and International Humanitarian Law, which includes the Fourth Geneva Convention, as well as other universally accepted principles of international law protecting human rights and human dignity.
There are multiple examples of violations of human
rights in the Israel-Palestine conflict. International Humanitarian Law
specifies that people living under occupation (like the Palestinians on the
From the standpoint of faith, we believe that we must recognize and name the evils that are facing the peoples of Israel-Palestine on both sides of the conflict. We must act responsibly under God. God calls us to value all people and stand up for all who are suffering and oppressed regardless of their nationality. Such a stand leads us to responsible stewardship in the investments we make as individuals, churches, institutions and corporations. As Christians we object to all those who carry out violent, unethical, immoral, and illegal actions. We have a God-given responsibility to act. At a minimum, we cannot ourselves participate even indirectly in supporting and enabling unjust policies.
In this context, therefore, we need to consider the following:
· Earning money through investment in companies whose products and services are used in such a way as to violate International Law and human rights is equivalent to profiting from unlawful acts and from the oppression of others.
· Investment in such companies can be seen as condoning the harm of innocent civilians under occupation and the illegal Israeli settlement policies that lead to human rights violations.
Investment in such companies
enables the government of
· Continuing such investments, once the facts are brought to our attention, constitutes deliberate condoning of the evil practices.
[God] judges the nations with justice. The Lord is a refuge for the oppressed a place of safety in times of trouble… God remembers those who suffer; He does not forget their cry, and he punishes those who wrong them… The needy will not always be neglected; the hope of the poor will not be crushed forever” (Psalm 9:8-9, 12, 18).
The Legal Call for Morally Responsible Investment
Harm against all innocent civilians is unjustified
and a serious violation of human rights. According to International Law countries are not allowed to cause harm to populations
under their control. The de-development, impoverishment, and hardships
inflicted on the Palestinians as an occupied people cannot be
ignored. Our goal is to insist on
It is clearly demonstrated
Fourth Geneva Convention of 1949 (to which
Article 1: The High Contracting Parties undertake to respect and to ensure respect for the present Convention in all circumstances. Article 27: Protected persons are entitled, in all circumstances, to respect for their persons, their honour, their family rights, their religious convictions and practices, and their manners and customs. They shall at all times be humanely treated, and shall be protected especially against all acts of violence or threats thereof and against insults and public curiosity.
Article 47: Protected persons who are in occupied territory shall not be deprived, in any case or in any manner whatsoever, of the benefits of the present Convention by any change introduced, as the result of the occupation of a territory, into the institutions or government of the said territory, nor by any agreement concluded between the authorities of the occupied territories and the Occupying Power, nor by any annexation by the latter of the whole or part of the occupied territory.
Article 147: Grave breaches to which the preceding Article relates shall be those involving any of the following acts, if committed against persons or property protected by the present Convention: willful killing, torture or inhuman treatment, including biological experiments, willfully causing great suffering or serious injury to body or health, unlawful deportation or transfer or unlawful confinement of a protected person, compelling a protected person to serve in the forces of a hostile Power, or willfully depriving a protected person of the rights of fair and regular trial prescribed in the present Convention, taking of hostages and extensive destruction and appropriation of property, not justified by military necessity and carried out unlawfully and wantonly.
Out of this follows the concept of Ownership Responsibility. Within the structure of corporations, shareholders are theoretically the true owners of a corporation and are ultimately responsible, legally, politically and morally, for the actions of the corporation, which are done on their behalf, for their benefit and in their name.
No shareholders can avoid legal or moral responsibility once the issue has been brought to their attention. If they cannot direct the management of a company to change its actions, they are still responsible for such actions as long as they own shares. When the church controls through its pension funds and investments large numbers of shares, its impact can be significant.
When the company is involved in violations of International Law -- child labor, pornography, apartheid practices, or settlement building -- the owners (shareholders) are morally responsible. To the extent they cannot prevail on the other shareholders and the management to end their evil practices, they must divest and seek other investments that are more in line with their beliefs. Even if such action is numerically insignificant, it is morally essential in terms of the witness of the church itself.
In 2004, the International Court of Justice reaffirmed these requirements of humanitarian law and stated again that the building of the Wall violates international law, and has called on the international community to refrain from assisting these violations in any way.
Until the international community takes up its legal responsibility and its obligations to put an end to these violations, organizations and individuals are required, at a minimum, to refrain from giving any material or political support. Therefore the duty to withdraw any existing support becomes a legal obligation under the provisions of the law.
The International Court of Justice Ruling on the
Construction of the wall within the
The International Court of Justice announced that all states are under an obligation:
not to recognize the illegal situation resulting from the Wall and not to render aid or assistance in maintaining the situation created by such construction. (Passed by a vote of 13 to 2)
to ensure compliance by
We are concerned about the delegitimization
of International Law that
We recognize that regardless of our position on the political resolution, we should not permit ourselves to have any involvement to facilitate or provide resources that would be used to inflict unlawful harm on people. This is a general principle that we stand for universally.
Bringing an End to Israel’s Illegal and Immoral Behavior
African National Congress President Oliver Tambo said in 1987 at the height of the system of apartheid: “trade and foreign investment have bolstered the apartheid economy and added to the resources which apartheid State has recklessly wasted in the pursuit of inhuman schemes….Furthermore this trade and investment has enabled the apartheid economy to fund ever increasing expenditure on the State’s coercive machinery which is aimed at internal repression and external aggression; and the flow of technology from outside helps to refine that apartheid machinery and make it more efficient….These international connections have helped sustain, and continue to sustain the apartheid system.”
Currently a system of international economic support
for the occupation exists as multinational corporations build franchises in the
occupied territories, supply military goods, and provide material for the
construction of the settlements and Separation Wall. Although numerous U.N.
resolutions have been passed and many countries have
At this point in time, having
assessed the international community’s failure to persuade
Sabeel believes that the divestment issue opens up a
larger conversation about the immorality of occupation that has
not been emphasized enough in the past. In its statement, the Israeli
Committee Against House Demolitions (ICAHD) calls for
sanctions: “The moral dimension led to a delegitimization
of the very apartheid system that left no room for ‘reform’. Carried over to
Avoidance strategy, i.e. avoiding investment in companies on moral grounds.
Involvement strategy, i.e. exercising influence and pressure on companies and corporations in shareholder meetings to actively promote moral and social responsibility and accountability.
Alternative strategy or selective investment, i.e. establishing alternative investment funds that promote justice and peace.
Withdrawal strategy, i.e. simply pulling investments on moral grounds.
Reinvestment strategy, i.e. moving the money on moral grounds from investments in corporations complicit of wrongdoing to organizations that engage in morally responsible business, or to reinvest in the organization or company after positive change occurs.
What Methods Does Sabeel Recommend?
As the next logical step, we encourage morally
responsible investment along the lines of the above mentioned points, which
basically translates into selective divestment -- the model that has been
advocated by the World Council of Churches, the Presbyterian Church USA, the
Episcopal Church (USA), as well as other organizations working for a just peace
in the region. As the U.S.-based organization, Jewish Voice for Peace, states:
“At JVP, we fully support selective divestment from companies that profit from
1. Therefore, Sabeel calls on churches to exert pressure on companies and corporations to discontinue business activities that:
· provide products, services or technology that sustain, support or maintain the occupation;
· have established facilities or operations on occupied land
· provide products, services, or financial support for the establishment, expansion, or maintenance of settlements on occupied land or settlement related infrastructure;
· provide products, services or financial backing to groups that commit violence against innocent civilians; or
finances or assist in the construction of
(adapted from the criteria set by the Presbyterian Church USA)
2. When such pressures fail to yield positive results, Sabeel calls on churches to divest/disinvest from companies and corporations that do not respond and comply with morally responsible investment and business practices.
“We do not believe that such investment plans are, by their very nature either anti-Semitic or anti-Israeli. On the contrary, the Occupation is destroying Israeli society by increasing poverty, violence, and insecurity. Therefore actions that oppose the Occupation are, in fact, pro-Israeli. Furthermore, we believe that such actions are in keeping with our vision of a Judaism that is based on the principle of justice.”
Not in My Name Statement of Support for Selective Divestment (http://www.nimn.org)
Obstacles and Challenges Facing the Churches
Blessed are you when people revile you and speak all manner of evil against you falsely on my account. Rejoice and be glad for great is your reward in heaven, for in the same way were the prophets persecuted before you (Matthew -12).
There are obstacles that make it difficult for some churches to carry out divestment even when it is particular to companies operating in, benefiting from or financing the occupation, companies that are aiding and abetting activities prohibited by the Geneva Conventions.
1. Apologists will argue that historical,
psychological, biblical, theological, and even social reasons make it difficult
for many western Christians to confront the unjust policies of the government
We are promoting the same values as those who struggle against anti-Semitism. No group of people, simply due to their ethnicity or nationality, should be excluded from the protections of International Law. Morally responsible investment is a Christian imperative and a nonviolent method aimed at ending the illegal occupation. We are calling for divestment from targeted companies that benefit from the violation of human rights and refuse to alter their behavior once confronted. This pressure must continue until the occupation ends.
We must advocate for upholding International Law specifically because these laws were designed to protect all civilians. It is precisely because we care about the legacy of the Holocaust and other international violations of human rights that we strongly believe that when we see indiscriminate violations of International Law, we must take a moral stand.
2. Apologists will ask church officials who are
Sabeel takes this stand for morally responsible investment in an effort to create a real dialogue about peace with justice. We ask churches to have "clean hands" and to stop supporting proven violations of International Law that have been well-documented by both Israeli and Palestinian human rights organizations in the last 38 years. (www.btselem.org; www.hamoked.org.il; www.alhaq.org; www.pchrgaza.org)
Learning the facts is important. Engaging in
dialogue is useful – but the best dialogue is done from an informed perspective
with a goal of bringing the suffering to an end.
Sabeel provides opportunities to visit and learn first-hand about the impact of
the occupation on the daily life of the Palestinians. (www.
3. Apologists will bring up the question of Palestinian violence. They claim that if the Palestinians would stop their “terrorism,” there could be peace and security.
The use of violence against civilians represents the problematic proliferation of contempt for the basic tenets of International Law in the area. Putting an end to violence against civilians requires addressing both the state and individual violence in the region and all responsible parties.
Sabeel decries all violent acts
against civilians and has made that clear in previous statements that are
available on line (www.
The government of
4. Apologists, in all probability, will use the
Christian Zionist voice against the mainline churches in an attempt to
discredit them and to show that millions of Christians accept and approve of
Standing alone for justice is not new for Christians. We may be a voice in the wilderness but when we act out of the conviction of our faith then mountains can be moved.
Sabeel understands that within every denomination comes a wide variety of perspectives on the conflict. A decision like this can and will cause denominational disagreement. Yet, we encourage churches to use this process of discussing morally responsible investment to better understand both the history of the Israel-Palestine conflict and our obligation to live by ethical standards with our resources. The Presbyterian Church USA (PCUSA) has prepared an informational DVD that can be used as a congregational resource (see www.pcusa.org).
5. It is likely, due to the various types of pressure that will be placed on a church that takes this step, that most churches may be tempted to back down or dilute their divestment strategy to an extent that would make it ineffective.
As Christians we have to
ask ourselves if statements are all that we can give as help to resolve this
conflict. It is time to take a clear stand for human rights and dignity. If the
rules of International Law were adopted by
6. Many will ask, “Why target divestment of firms
actively engaged in violations of International Law in
If, for example, a firm is complicit in violation of
child or prison labor,
We at Sabeel encourage churches to put pressure on
and/or divest from any and all companies and
corporations that are involved in practices that violate human rights. It is
important to note that our call for morally responsible investment is specifically focused on companies directly involved in
illegal practices in the
Sabeel believes that any divestment must be done from moral obligation – the same moral obligation that obliges us to struggle against and separate ourselves from anti-Semitism. The blessing that is promised in the Sermon on the Mount is for those who are falsely accused. We must be sure that we are acting solely as a result of moral constraints.
A Call to the Churches
“In the center stands faith, on the periphery you have works; in the center the gospel, politics on the periphery; in the center salvation, on the periphery the well being of our neighbor. Between the center and the periphery our human life revolves, on the periphery is decided and revealed what has happened at the center.” -Helmut Gollwitzer
The mainline churches in the West have, by and large, maintained a very balanced position vis-à-vis
the Palestine/Israel conflict. On the one hand, they have always affirmed
The churches repeatedly and categorically have stood
on the side of a just peace for the Palestinians in accordance with UN
resolutions and International Law. International, regional, and national
councils of churches around the world have asserted this same position. Through
their statements and representations, the churches were encouraging their
national governments to pressure
As churches examine their own investment policies
and show willingness to take moral and ethical investment decisions, they pick
up where the political global community has failed to date. It is important to
demonstrate by our own example that, just as we are prepared
to bear burdens to maintain our own respect for international law, so
We applaud the decision of the World Council of Churches Central Committee, meeting in February 2005, which called on the churches to:
· encourage member churches to work for peace in new ways and to give serious consideration to economic measures that are equitable, transparent and non-violent;
· persuade member churches to keep in good contact with sister churches embarking on such initiatives with a view to support and counsel one another;
· urge the establishment of more and wider avenues of engagement between Christian, Muslim and Jewish communities pursuing peace;
· remind churches with investment funds that they have an opportunity to use those funds responsibly in support of peaceful solutions to conflict. Economic pressure, appropriately and openly applied, is one such means of action.
“The end of apartheid stands as one of the
crowning accomplishments of the past century, but we would not have succeeded
without the help of international pressure – in particular the divestment
movement of the 1980s. Divestment from apartheid
A Call from Palestinian Christians
The Palestinian Christian community in
Although we work for peace alongside our Muslim and Jewish brothers and sisters, we are blessed by our links and partnership with a “great cloud of witnesses” throughout the world that, like us, are members of the Body of Christ. Biblically and theologically we stand together:
For just as the body is one and has many members, and all the members of the body, though many, are one body, so it is with Christ. For in the one Spirit we were all baptized into one body (1Corinthians -13).
If one member suffers, all suffer together with it; if one member is honored, all rejoice together with it (1Corinthians ).
We are called by God to work for justice: He has told you, O mortal, what is good; and what does the Lord require of you but to do justice, and to love kindness, and to walk humbly with your God? (Micah 6:8).
We are called by Christ to work for peace: Blessed are the peacemakers, for they will be called children of God (Matthew 5:9).
We are, therefore, pleading with our brothers and sisters all over the world to invest their God-given material resources in morally responsible activities that would contribute to the achievement of a just peace in Israel-Palestine. Furthermore, we ask them to continue to pray for all the inhabitants of our land so that peace will be achieved and the way for reconciliation will be opened. We are reminded of the words of the Latin American theologian, Leonardo Boff: “If we want to serve the true God, we must break out of the circle of self-absorption and pay heed to the bloodied faces of our fellow human beings. If we do not share life with the oppressed, we do not share life with God.”
A Closing Prayer for Guidance
Almighty God, who created us in your own image: Grant us grace fearlessly to contend against evil and to make no peace with oppression; and, that we may reverently use our freedom, help us to employ it in the maintenance of justice in our communities and among the nations, to the glory of your holy Name; through Jesus Christ our Lord, who lives and reigns with you and the Holy Spirit, one God, now and for ever. Amen.
Resources for further study
World Council of Churches Central Committee minutes
Episcopal Church in the
Global Ministries [the Common Board of the Christian
Church (Disciples of Christ) and United Church of Christ] document "The
Presbyterian Church (
HOPP Campaign for a Just Peace in the
The Network of Christian Organizations in
Not in My Name statement in support of Selective Divestment
Jewish Voice for Peace in support of divestment
European Jews for a Just Peace statement on illegality of settlement products:
New Profile: Movement for the Civilization of Israeli Society ** *
A complete list of products manufactured in illegal Israeli settlements.
Information on the struggle against the occupation.
*Episcopal Church in the
It is the intent of the Social Responsibility in Investments Committee to undertake the following:
Over the next twelve months,
In doing this work,
In doing this work,
The Social Responsibility in Investments
Committee—which while monitoring what other church bodies like the Presbyterian
Church (USA) are doing, understands that its primary responsibility is to
implement existing Episcopal Church policies—will interact with as many groups
as possible to better understand the underlying issues and how corporate
actions in the Middle East may be impediments to peace. Further, the emphasis
of this process is not likely to be divestment from companies whose actions are
morally questionable, but rather engagement with them. In so doing, the
Episcopal Church is acting in ways consistent with its own policy statements on
** Christian Council of
The campaign includes:
Co-ordinated, focused work to raise opinion and lobbying
Support for the Ecumenical Accompaniment Programme, EAPPI.
Exerting political pressure to
make the EU suspend its free trade agreement with
Specific action: Boycotting produce from the illegal settlements on occupied territory.
*** New Profile aims to transform
New Profile opposes the Occupation on three counts:
Its destruction of Palestinian life, society, land, and property.
Its role in maintaining militarism
Its erosion of
We therefore seek non-violent means of ending this catastrophic Occupation. One such means is using economic sanctions to pressure the government to change its policy. To this end New Profile welcomes and supports selective divestment aimed at divesting from companies that contribute to the continuation of the Occupation by supplying arms, other equipment, or staff.
We welcome all such endeavors, believing firmly that
ending the occupation is not only to the benefit of the Palestinians but also
necessary for the welfare of
New Profile: Movement for the Civilization of Israeli Society